One of the most persistent questions facing Christians is “can divine foreknowledge be reconciled with human free will?” In the book Divine Foreknowledge: 4 Views, four excellent Christian thinkers address this question, giving the reader exposure to a range of views across the spectrum.
Gregory Boyd defends the controversial open theism view. According to this position, humans really do have genuine free choices, and even God does not know what choices will be made. Boyd contends that genuine free choices literally cannot be known, since they haven’t been made yet. Since God’s omniscience only entails that He knows all facts which it is possible to know, Boyd argues that this view does not diminish God’s perfect knowledge.
Boyd primarily bases his case on Biblical texts. He says that texts which indicate God repenting of previous actions, expressing frustration, and changing His mind should be taken at face value, rather than dismissed as anthropomorphisms.
Open theism is a relatively new and extremely controversial view within Christian theism. This is currently an active and exciting area within the philosophy of religion. It will be interesting to see what comes of this debate.
David Hunt defends the more intuitive simple-foreknowledge view, according to which God simply knows everything about the future. Hunt also affirms human free will. He rejects several approaches to reconciling the two concepts, including the so-called Ockhamist solution favored by Craig. Rather, Hunt claims that humans can have libertarian free will even if they do not have alternative possibilities.
William Lane Craig defends the middle knowledge view. This is a somewhat more intricate doctrine of foreknowledge that Craig has defended in more detail elsewhere (see his book The Only Wise God) In this view, God’s knowledge can be categorized into 3 conceptual categories. The first is natural knowledge, which is God’s knowledge of all possible worlds. The third is free knowledge, which is God’s knowledge of all things in the actual world. The second category is appropriately called ‘middle knowledge,’ and it consists of God’s knowledge of what every free creature would do in any possible set of circumstances. This would include, for example, knowledge of what I would do if my computer crashed right now. This is known as a counterfactual of creaturely freedom. According to Craig, God can use His middle knowledge to create a world in which His ends are met through human free choices.
Craig says that there is no incompatibility between libertarian free will and God’s perfect foreknowledge of what agents will do. He argues that it is altogether mysterious how mere knowledge of a future act could cause the act. In actual fact, our free choices determine God’s foreknowledge, not the other way around.
Finally, Paul Helm defends the Augustinian-Calvinist position, which denies that humans have libertarian free will. Instead, Helm defends a compatibilist view of freedom, which he argues is sufficient for moral accountability. Helm contends that attempts like Craig’s and Hunt’s to reconcile human freedom with divine foreknowledge fail, and that open theism views like Boyd’s entail a rejection of sovereignty and an abuse of the Biblical texts.
I thought all the contributors to this volume were great representatives of their respective positions, and the ‘four views’ format allows the reader to see the broad range of Christian positions on this fascinating issue. For those who are interested and/or troubled by the problem of divine foreknowledge and human freedom, this book is highly recommended.